Crotalus Aquilus


The thing in my hair was not there
when I was a child--
only the breeze.

You cannot pet it, it will only
hunker down, hiding.
I am never lonely, but long to be.

Sometimes it slithers down my arms
to my fingers
and lays eggs inside.

(They turn to stone,
change flesh to bone.)

In my belly, its basket swells
with the things it saves--
a crowded hell.

"Look at the fat old lady, dropping things!"
the children call.
The thing in my hair bites their ball.

At night the thing whispers, nips,
draws blood and memories,
worries, fits.

(At dawn it dies and sleeps
wrapped like a hobble around my feet.)

Play a flute and see it risen as a Christ
undulating, swaying
in a mockery of praying

Above my head, a permanent rotten halo
unasked-for, inevitable,
whispering, "You are beautiful,

(Senora, like the setting sun,
mi viejo.")

mi viejo = "my old one"

Crotalus Aquilus = Queretaro dusky rattlesnake, a venomous pit viper found at high altitude in Mexico. 


  1. Hard to find words to say how sharp and searing this poem is, how it grinds the years into a bloody flour and makes such a rich, bitter meal from them. I love the imagery, the creep of my flesh as I read, and the truth that hides in the windings. This is another one of your best, incomparable writing. Those first three stanzas! And really all the rest of it, including the bite of the title. Everything poetry should be here, and a little more.

  2. Again you leave me speechless with your powerful verses, Shay! You are really blessed with words and a poetic charm. Superb!

  3. Only you could envision a viper living in the hair, and come up with lines no other poet ever could dream up to tell the tale. Wow! I SO LOVE the warmth of those closing lines.

  4. Yes a snake, I see that and your words capture it and the bite and sting of life so eloquently Shay! You always say what we are unable to! Absolutely magnificent poetry my friend!

  5. Oh my lord, that is amazing. The first line sets us up so beautifully, innocent, and we end in the grip of a love of death. The Christ line is incomparable.

    1. Reading it again - "I am never lonely, but long to be." might be one of your best all time.

  6. Oh, the things that can grow in our hair..."In my belly, its basket swells
    with the things it saves--a crowded hell." Love that line. Some of the stories in my hair should never be told.

  7. What a frightening familiar. This line tells the tale for me:
    "I am never lonely, but long to be."
    Such evocative word weaving!

  8. Monsters distilling from the years and growing their own myths beneath the skin--this was both eerie and riveting.

  9. Wonderful, beautiful and disturbing images coiled within your amazing poem.

  10. A tale macabre. A cringed reading it
    Good Sunday


  11. Snake charmer ... you are beautiful.

  12. The medusa. I like the innocence portrayed in the the beginning
    then it is lost to the wild currents of life. Amazing writing

  13. The monster that lives hidden in a nest of hair. Incredible writing, Shay!


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